Editor’s Note: Before the Paralympic Games open on September 7, we’ll be introducing you to the U.S. Paralympic athletes who will be competing in visual impairment categories in Rio de Janeiro through a series entitled “Rio-Bound”. Follow along on our website and social media with #riobound. Though the torch was extinguished at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony on Sunday, August 21, we’re counting down the days until it is re-lit for the Paralympic Games! A full schedule of events can be found at www.rio2016.com. You can tune into NBC and NBCSN (broadcast schedule here) or stream Games coverage live online at www.paralympic.org or https://www.dailymotion.com/Paralympics.
Birthdate: March 30, 1990
Hometown: Smyrna, Ga.
High School: Whitefield Academy ‘08
College: Washington & Lee University ’12, Political Science
2015 Parapan American Games – silver
2014 IBSA World Goalball Championship – bronze
Two-time National Champion (2011, 2014)
Matt was born with a congenital retina disease that left him with severely impaired vision from an early age. He became active in sports and found goalball at a U.S. Association of Blind Athletes Sports Education Camp in 1999. He fell in love with the sport and has been playing competitively ever since. Matt is a member of the U.S. Men’s Resident Program at Turnstone in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he trains full-time with 4 other elite goalball athletes. We caught up with Matt between training sessions at the Men’s Goalball Resident Program at Turnstone in Fort Wayne to find out how he’s preparing for his first Paralympic Games.
USABA: What are you most looking forward to about the Brazilian culture?
MS: Excited to see what the Brazilian people put together for opening and closing ceremonies. I’m excited to enjoy their hospitality. Going to these kinds of events is always about immersing yourself in the culture and experiencing the goodwill and the hospitality of the people.
USABA: What are you most looking forward to in Rio?
MS: The ceremony and pageantry and the event that is the Paralympics. Everyone on this team has been to the world’s stage in goalball, we’ve been to the world championships but the Paralympics is almost as much about the events off the court as it is the result on the court. So, I’m excited to experience all of that.
USABA: This will be your first Paralympic Games. How are you feeling?
MS: Excited. It’s been a long journey to get here. The first time I picked up a goalball, when I was 10 years old, and found out what the Paralympics were all about, it’s been my dream to be a Paralympic athlete. So, this is definitely a very cool milestone in my career as a goalball player. I’m very excited to represent Team USA and be a part of this very exclusive crowd of people that get to call themselves U.S. Paralympians.
USABA: How are you preparing for September?
MS: Every day, we’re on the court, we’re in the weight room so the physical side, I think is really coming along well. Skills and strength are coming along well. For me, I think the biggest thing that I’m working on is mental toughness and situational awareness on the court. Just as it’s important to teach our bodies how to be efficient machines, it’s also important to teach our minds to be ready for the extra pressure and the extra stress that is actually going to occur when you’re playing in front of 12,000 people.
USABA: Who do you thank for helping you get to this point in your athletic career?
MS: My family – First and foremost. When I started playing goalball, there wasn’t a team for me to play with in my area and there wasn’t anybody who knew what goalball was but my family went above and beyond to provide opportunities to play the game and to ensure that I had everything I needed to chase this dream of becoming a Paralympic athlete.
Coach Boyle – His dedication as a coach has mirrored, in every facet, the dedication and intensity of the athletes that he coaches. We couldn’t do it without him.
There are obviously tons of people along the way who make any Paralympic journey possible, it’s hard to pick out just a few.